Guards – Review
Follow Genre: Turn-based tactics game, puzzle game
Developer: Battlecruiser Games
Publisher: Drageus Games
Platform: Switch, PC, Android
Tested on: Switch

Guards – Review

Site Score
6.3
Good: Simple but solid gameplay mechanics
Bad: Feels very generic
User Score
7.0
(1 votes)
Click to vote
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Rating: 7.0/10 (1 vote cast)

Battlecruiser Games’ turn-based tactical title Guards has been around in some form or another since 2016, on a variety of platforms including Steam and Android. The game has gone through several iterations in the past five years, with the latest release now available on the Switch. At first glance, the game certainly looks more polished than the 2017 Android version, even if the core gameplay looks to be the same. Has Guards stood the test of time or is this a title that isn’t worth even its budget price in 2021?

Story

Although all the elements for a narrative are present here, including a party of adventures and a boss that they have to take down, we’re sad to say that there is only a loose semblance of a story here. Instead, the game is presented as a series of battles without any character growth or plot development. Even the party members are addressed by their profession. Even though the individual battles are quite intense, you never get a sense of attachment to the party members. Given the premise of a small party taking on a massive army of fantasy monsters, this feels like a missed opportunity.

Graphics

Guards’ visuals are simple but very clean and polished. The cartoonish designs for the heroes and their enemies reduce the classic fantasy archetypes they represent to something that is recognizable for what it is, but lacks standout features. The party members don’t even have faces. It’s an aesthetic that might be divisive, as we’d prefer our characters to have some uniqueness or personality to them, but there isn’t anything inherently wrong with these design choices. The simplicity of the graphics means that there are no performance issues present, as Guards never becomes too taxing on the Switch. We would’ve liked to have seen some more variety in the environments though. Although there are minor differences between the stages, such as the size of the rocks in the background or the sky representing nighttime, the stages all look like a grass field surrounded by rocks.

Sound

Between the generic fantasy background music and the stock sound effects, there isn’t anything that really stands out when it comes to Guards’ soundscape. It’s perfectly serviceable and there are no issues with the audio quality, but we weren’t too impressed with what’s present here.

Gameplay

On the surface, Guards appears to be your typical run-of-the-mill turn-based tactics game, and to a certain extent, this is definitely true. However, the game stands out from the crowd through its unique mechanic that makes the battles often feel like a puzzle game rather than a pure tactical combat title. Battles are played on a three-line wide grid, with enemies approaching from the right-hand side of the screen and your own party, which consists of four adventures, taking a position on the left-hand side. One of the party members stays in the back, whereas the other three form a battle line. Taking a turn is deceptively simple: instead of selecting which party member takes what action, you just swap two members of your party and then everyone takes their turn. The result is a game that is a lot harder to master than what you’d expect at first glance: every one of your party members has different stats and abilities, and even a different range for their attacks. Some adventurers can attack distant enemies, such as the Inquisitor, who uses lighting-based magical attacks. Others, like the ninja, are able to take on multiple foes at once. Your party always consists of four characters, but there are eight available characters to choose from, meaning there is a decent amount of variety as well as tactical depth present in party selection.

The party member at the back will slowly heal up while the other members fight. Of course, you can simply put a support character in the back row, but these are often fragile, and keeping them safe means that your other teammates will need to tank the hits or the enemies that are slowly headed towards your party. The clean interface displays only relevant info at the bottom, so that you can easily see what everyone is capable of at a glance. The beauty here is that the game looks incredibly simple, with controls that anyone can pick up because of their simplicity, but you are so limited in your actions that the game can be maddeningly difficult at times. If you’re a glutton for punishment, then Guards might be the title you’re looking for.

There is a decent variety of enemies and each of these have their own unique abilities and attack patterns, keeping you on your toes whenever a new face makes its debut. Fortunately, your party members will also gain experience and unlock improvements and upgrades as you progress. This is very much par for the course for these types of games, and apart from the unique “swap to take a turn” mechanics, Guards doesn’t really bring anything new to the table, but what is present here works very well. The only real downside here is that the game doesn’t offer up enough variety in its gameplay, and is therefore best enjoyed in short bursts instead of lengthy sessions. We also would’ve liked seeing some sort of multiplayer or PVP mode where two players would pit two parties against one another but given the game’s price point, that would’ve probably been too much to ask for.

Conclusion

Guards relies on its unique gameplay mechanic to hook in the player and to its credit, what’s present here from a gameplay perspective works surprisingly well. The main downside is that the game doesn’t do enough to differentiate itself and stand out from the sea of generic fantasy games out there aesthetically. Given the price point of the title, you’re certainly getting your money’s worth, but we would’ve actually preferred a more elaborate and expanded version of the same concept, even if it meant a higher price tag.

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Rating: 7.0/10 (1 vote cast)
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Guards - Review, 7.0 out of 10 based on 1 rating
SebastiaanRaats


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